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Woolwich. A small window into reactions

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The currents of reaction to the brutal murder of Lee Rigby, the serving soldier who was hacked to death in a Woolwich street have been overwhelming. Devastating in its brazenness, the murder of a young man in broad daylight has penetrated the uncertainties and conflicts at the heart of Britain’s social identity.

Desperate to pay some sort of online homage, 1.1 million people ‘liked’ the Facebook page ‘RIP Woolwich Soldier’ within 24 hours. Signs have already begun to emerge that this page may be associated with the English Defence League who instantly saw the political capital in the tragic Mr Rigby. So have all those people unwittingly supported an organisation defined by racist thuggery? And if suddenly the EDL have access to all these people’s profiles – does that actually give them any real foothold?

Meanwhile, the Help for Heroes website crashed yesterday as the site was flooded with support and donations. Lee Rigby was wearing a Help for Heroes t-shirt when he was attacked, and it seems that the t-shirt may even have been the reason he was targeted. An online campaign began to swell with countless people on Twitter vowing to wear the t-shirt to work or fundraise for the wounded soldiers’ charity. The merchandise section collapsed under the weight of interest as people rushed not only to donate, but to wear a badge not only of pride or support, but of defiance.

In another twist that demonstrated rare dignity in our tabloid culture, the rapper Boya Dee refused to sell his story. The relatively unknown rapper was one of the first people on the scene of the Woolwich murder and tweeted throughout the events. But when offered £75,000 for his story, he turned it down, saying

"This story is not about ME and doesn't need to be sensationalised anymore by me selling my story for a few bucks”

The horror of the Woolwich attack, the attempt to turn it into an immigration question (despite the killer’s thick London accent), the surge in far right support, the underlying anti Islamic tone in the media, the sheer disgust at safety shattered and the fallout from Britain’s questionable wars hitting our streets have raised emotions to fever pitch. Yet amongst the angry rhetoric and the recriminations, millions are just doing a good deed.

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